After months of planning, Salem library move is in the home stretch

The Salem Public Library reopens at its Broadway location on Feb. 18. (Saphara Harrell/Salem Reporter)

Moving the Salem Public Library is about numbers.

Consider what it will take to empty out the library at City Hall: 6,350 cardboard boxes, 200 orange crates, 200 feet of bubble wrap and 51 employees.

City officials have been planning the library’s temporary evacuation since the temporary location at 1400 Broadway St. N.E. was announced in July. The original building is getting seismic upgrades.

Their task was to pare a library collection of 300,000 items occupying 90,000 square feet – equal to about 35 average-sized homes – to a size that can fit in approximately 16,500 square feet.

With the library closed, employees are in the final stretch, boxing up the remaining books that will go into storage.

A collection logistics team comprised of the head of circulation, head of tech services and two staff members coordinated the boxing and moving of the collections, setting up a schedule for who is boxing what and when.

“They’re the ones that are sort of the backbone and heartbeat of materials and materials movement throughout the library,” city librarian Sarah Strahl said. “There are a million little pieces that they’re all thinking about – plotting and planning and all of that stuff.”

All the books that are currently checked out are going to the new location, as well as new items and the highest demand materials.  

There’s a labeling scheme — boxes are numbered one through 32 and put on pallets labeled with the first call number to go in — and mapping for what goes where in the new location.

Some shelves were wrapped in plastic and wheeled to the new location. Others were loaded into storage crates.

Some bookshelves were wrapped in plastic before being transported to the new location on Northeast Broadway Street. (Saphara Harrell/Salem Reporter)

The city hired a professional moving company, Lile Moving and Storage, to haul orange crates full of books to the new location and to load boxes destined for storage onto pallets that will be wheeled into the library’s basement.

There’s lot of moving that isn’t book related. The IT department moved its computers. Employees had to move their offices. The Willamette Valley Genealogical Society moved its records into storage.

“It’s definitely an army of people to get the library moved,” said Christopher Rumbaugh, adult services manager at the library.

“It seems like it’s this monolithic thing,” Rumbaugh said. “But we actually have departments within the library that do specific tasks. This brings in key people from those groups that all kind of work together to have a say in how things moved or shelved.”

Staff attended training to learn how to properly fill cardboard boxes.

There can’t be any gaps, or else the boxes stacked four high will cave, Rumbaugh said.

Strahl said there are some items like graphic novels that are harder to fit into boxes in a way that makes the most sense.

“It’s like a puzzle almost,” she said.

Then there are the books that are currently checked out or on hold. While the library is closed until Feb. 18., holds are going to the west Salem branch.

Strahl said the library plans to keep tens of thousands of items currently checked out in circulation.

The Broadway location only has space for about 22,000 items on shelves and is intended to house the highest use and most in-demand items.

Because some books will always be checked out, the library is keeping more materials in circulation than can fit in the space – some come in, some go out.

“That’s why we’re not all panicking about the fact that there’s 60,000 items checked out, you know on a snapshot, because we know that there will continue to be a demand for those items and they’ll be checked out ongoing,” Strahl said. 

Have a tip? Contact reporter Saphara Harrell at 503-549-6250, [email protected] or @daisysaphara.